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Falcons on brink of county elite

GIRLS BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK: A win for Dunedin (13-7) will mean a possible No. 1 seed in the Class 5A, District 9 tournament.

By BOB PUTNAM
Published January 17, 2007


No matter the outcome of Thursday night's home game against Clearwater, Dunedin will have had a successful season.

How successful depends on what happens against a talented team that has a couple of intimidating offensive weapons and a history of dominating the Falcons. The stakes are high and the challenge is immense.

A win for Dunedin (13-7) will mean a spot as the north representative in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship, a possible No. 1 seed in the Class 5A, District 9 tournament and the satisfaction of knowing this team did something special.

"One of our goals is to have a chance to play for the county championship," Falcons coach Rob Odoms said. "To do that, we've got to beat the best."

Last season, Dunedin was on the brink of prosperity. The Falcons nearly knocked off state semifinalist Largo in the district tournament.

After that game, Dunedin did not have time to relax.

With the Falcons coming off a surprising season and returning almost every player, Odoms knew he had the necessary elements in place for a team ready to breakout. But Odoms knew it was not enough to have the pieces. They also had to fit together.

To develop more cohesiveness on the court, Dunedin made basketball a year-round pursuit, playing the offseason circuit until it was time for high school practice to begin.

The work showed. With an intimidating frontcourt, led by Jenae Swann and Kimarie Bock, the Falcons swept Palm Harbor University and split with Largo.

The Tornadoes are the only team left to conquer.

Still, Clearwater (19-1) is a solid favorite, which probably has to do with the way the Tornadoes have beaten up Dunedin over the years.

The Falcons have not knocked off Clearwater in the 11 years Odoms has coached the program.

"It's a big barrier we have to overcome," Odoms said. "Some of the games have not been close."

Odoms, though, has brought the program to a point where a big loss to anyone is inconceivable. Dunedin is now removed from those uneven seasons. But an appearance in the PCAC championship would be a high-water mark for a program that has struggled to find a spot among the county's upper echelon.

The Falcons are close. The Tornadoes are all that stand in the way.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE: The showdown between Dunedin and Clearwater is not the only big game this week. On Friday, Lakewood hosts Boca Ciega with the winner representing the south in the PCAC game. And on Saturday, St. Petersburg Catholic hosts Academy of the Holy Names in a battle of district rivals.

KESWICK IN CONTROL: Janelle DeVaul hit a 5-foot, turnaround jumper with four seconds left to help the Crusaders beat Northside Christian 58-56. The wins means Keswick will host Cambridge in the Bay Conference championship Jan. 25.

Fast Facts:

Super seven

1. Clearwater (19-1): The countdown has already started on coach Tom Shaneyfelt's impending 500th career victory.

2. Boca Ciega (17-3): Big test comes this week against Lakewood with winner representing the south in the PCAC game.

3. SP Catholic (16-4): The Barons knocked off Miami Monsignor Pace and West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman the past two weeks.

4. Lakewood (14-5): After cruising the past two weeks, the Spartans are hoping to exact revenge for early-season loss against the Pirates.

5. St. Petersburg (14-5): After knocking off previously unbeaten Mitchell, the Green Devils have confidence needed to win district title.

6. Dunedin (13-7): Up-and-coming team is looking forward to big game against the Tornadoes.

7. Palm Harbor University (13-8): The Hurricanes are battling for third or fourth seed in the district tournament.